CFL LIGHT BULBS
Why Use CFLs?
Not only have CFL prices gone down in recent years, but the variety of bulbs is greater and the quality of lighting has improved. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home's electric bill. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs and last up to ten times longer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 800,000 cars.
What About Mercury Emissions?
CFLs do contain mercury, which is a toxic substance. So consumers are rightfully concerned about the potential for exposure or the release of mercury in the environment. But CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury - an average of 4 milligrams - which is sealed within the glass tubing. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams, the amount that would be found in 125 CFLs.
Most of the mercury vapor inside the CFL becomes bound to the inside of the bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that 11 percent of mercury in a CFL would be released into air or water when a broken bulb is sent to a landfill. If all 290 million CFLs sold in 2007 were sent to a landfill, they would add 0.13 metric tons, or 0.1 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions currently caused by humans. This is why GCEA encourages you to recycle your CFLs.
What Should You Do If A CFL Breaks?
Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use. But what should you do if a CFL breaks?
- Open a window to air out the room
- Leave the room for 15 minutes or more
- Shut off central forced-air heating or air conditioning
- Clean up hard surfaces by scooping up glass fragments in a glass jar with a metal lid (use sticky tape to pick up small glass fragments and powder). If you vacuum, remove the vacuum bag and place in a sealed plastic bag, or clean the canister thoroughly.
- If clothing or bedding comes in direct contact with the broken glass or mercury-containing powder, it should be thrown away. Do not wash the clothing or bedding because the mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
Easy Ways to Dispose of CFLs
Unless your CFLs are broken, they will hold their mercury indefinitely, so you can store them until you are able to take them to a recycling center. Five-gallon PVC buckets with sealable tops, which can be salvaged from most construction sites or purchased new for less than $10, make excellent storage containers.
- GCEA headquarters at 37250 W. Hwy 50 in Gunnison
- Crested Butte Office located on the second floor of the Crested Butte Bank Building at 116 6th Street.
- Transfer Station in Lake City
You can also check with your local retailers, such as Ace Hardware and Home Depot, which have national recycling programs.
GCEA's CFL Recycling Program
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs are a good choice when it comes to saving energy. But they do contain a small amount of mercury, so consumers need to be aware of how to dispose of them safely. More and more retailers are offering recycling programs, but it is not always convenient to go to the store when you live in the mountains.
GCEA is offering an alternative to its members by providing recycle pails at locations throughout its service area. If you pay your bill in person, you can bring your burnt out bulbs to the GCEA Headquarters in Gunnison , the Crested Butte Office or the Transfer Station in Lake City.